CTech April 2015 Product picks
It’s been a while since we last sorted through the mountain of products sent to us here at CyclingTips for Product Picks. But now, in the latest instalment, we take a look at everything from cycling kit, to helmets, from lights to bar tape, from nutrition products through to “nasal dilators”. As ever, if you’ve used any of the products featured in this edition we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Follow the links below to skip through to a particular review:
- BBB Waterflex Shoe Covers
- POC Octal Helmet
- CeramicSpeed Bearings
- Henty Tube backpack
- Bontrager Flare R tail light
- POC AVIP Essential bib shorts and short sleeve jersey
- BBB Neoshield winter gloves
- This Island Race photobook
- Supacaz bartape
- MAAP kit
- Volta Paragon helmet
- The Turbine, second generation
- Loudmouth Captain Thunderbolt compression sleeves
- Aeroclam saddlebag
- A selection of Etixx nutrition products
- Cycling Climbs – Twenty Art Prints book
BBB Waterflex Shoe Covers
BBB has an enormous range of shoe covers designed to suit a range of weather conditions. The company rates its BWS-03 Waterflex shoe covers as the most effective in the rain thanks to the use of 2mm polyurethane lined with microfleece that resists water and insulates the feet.
The booties have an open sole with a central velcro closure. There is a full-length zip at the back with a flap on the inside and a short velcro closure at the top. All seams are taped and the heel and toe are reinforced with kevlar caps.
Waterflex shoes covers are available in six sizes (37/38, 39/40, 41/42, 43/44, 45/46 and 47/48) and two colours (black and neon yellow). For more information, visit BBB parts.
From the outset, it’s important to note that shoes covers won’t stop your feet from getting wet while it is raining. Some shoes covers will keep road spray out up until a point but the only way to keep your feet dry is never ride in the rain or on wet roads.
The value of any shoe cover therefore lies with its utility and insulation. BBB’s Waterflex shoe covers are easy to pull on and off—it is the latter that is perhaps more important once your feet are wet and uncomfortable. The open sole means that there is no need to carefully locate an opening for the pedal cleat and the velcro strap allows the fit to be adjusted somewhat.
I found the 2mm polyurethane was well suited to autumn showers. There’s always a risk that your feet will get too hot if the rain passes quickly but there isn’t much bulk associated with these booties, so they can be easily stowed in a pocket once they’re no longer needed.
By Matt Wikstrom
POC Octal Helmet
The Octal helmet is reportedly designed with one thing in mind — safety — whilst also offering good ventilation, comfort and a weight of less than 200 grams (for size M).
To increase safety, the Octal has been designed to provide more coverage and additional protection for the temples and back of the head and the expanded polystyrene liner is reportedly thicker in the most exposed areas.
Rather than many small vents, Octal has fewer, but larger, ventilation slots. This ventilation design allows more air to flow through the helmet, which is said to aid aerodynamic performance.
As a part of the AVIP concept (Attention, Visibility, Interaction, Protection), the Octal comes in high visibility colors, and with reflective logo stickers on the side.
For more information visit the Poc website.
The Octal certainly has received a lot of attention and the design is certainly unique, drawing mixed reviews. For every person that loves the look, there’s another who thinks it looks ridiculous. Personally it’s my helmet of choice after a crash made me give up my last helmet.
We love the focus on safety; the coverage at the back of the head, on the temples and around the ears feels far more significant than some of the other helmets we’ve tried. This is what gives it that uniquely larger look. The vents at the front and back also add to the distinctive look but seem to enhance air flow, and the weight is surprisingly low.
While the look isn’t for everyone, it is for us.
by Jonathan Reece
CeramicSpeed is a Danish company that was established by Jacob Csizmadia in 2004. His interest in ceramic bearings began years earlier when they helped him set a world record for 24-hour inline skating in 1998.
CeramicSpeed has worked closely with the cycling industry since its inception and now sponsors three WorldTour teams and is an OEM supplier for a variety of companies including Specialized, SRM, PowerTap and 3T. CeramicSpeed also manufactures bearings for a wide range of industrial applications.
The argument for ceramic bearings is two-fold: first, ceramic balls are smoother and rounder than steel balls and therefore offer less resistance and small energy savings; and second, they last longer than steel bearings even when they are exposed to water and other contaminants.
The company’s bottom bracket catalogue accommodates all of the current standards (BSA, ITA, BB30, PF30, BB86, OSBB, BBright, 386EVO) and includes conversion kits for SRAM GXP and Shimano cranks. Buyers have a choice of colours for the bearing cups (black or red) and can elect to pay extra for coated races that further reduces the resistance of the bearings.
Pulley wheels are available for Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM derailleurs (9-10- and 11-speed) with a choice of colours (black or red) and the option to upgrade to coated bearings with titanium wheels. CeramicSpeed’s wheel bearing kits provide all of the bearings required to rebuild the front and rear hubs of wheels from over a dozen major manufacturers (eg. Mavic, Zipp, Easton, Shimano, DT Swiss). They also offer individual bearings and loose balls (3/32-1/4inch).
CeramicSpeed has distributors in most major countries, so buyers can order them through their local bike shop, or they can buy directly from CeramicSpeed. Each product is supplied with a small amount of CeramicSpeed’s own grease (bearings) or oil (pulley wheels). Installation of most bearings will require specialised tools and should be performed by an experienced mechanic.
For more information, visit CeramicSpeed.
RRP: Bottom brackets, €239-€560 (A$347-$813); pulley wheels, €199-€519 (A$289-$754); wheel bearing kits, €99-€829 (A$144-$1,204).
For this review, CeramicSpeed supplied a BSA bottom bracket, Campagnolo 10-speed pulley wheels, and a DT Swiss wheel bearing kit. The pulley wheels were ready to fit straight out of the box, while the bottom bracket and wheel bearings just needed filling with grease before installation.
Once installed, the wheels and cranks were spinning lightly and smoothly, and were an improvement on the stock bearings and pulley wheels they replaced. However, my wheels were still some way from challenging the performance of Gokiso’s wonder hubs. Regardless, there is a measure of satisfaction in a transmission that back-pedals with a light touch.
Four months later, the entire transmission is still spinning lightly and smoothly, perhaps even more so. Riding through the summer months in Perth, the bearings have yet to be tested by rain, but I’m pleased with their performance. Is it enough to justify what amounts to a $1,400 cost? Probably not.
There is however a good argument for these bearings in a set of hubs that will serve multiple wheel-builds; similarly, a bottom bracket that serves a couple of groupsets would also be easy to justify. However, in today’s consumer environment, longevity has little value, so the only riders that will find value in these fine bearings are those that can’t afford to give up a few watts or those that desire and can afford the very highest quality componentry.
by Matt Wikstrom
Henty Tube backpack
Henty’s catalogue of sports-oriented bags has been steadily growing since they unveiled their Wingman a few years ago. The Tube Backpack is their latest design and it offers two distinct advantages over conventional backpacks.
First, the opening of the bag is huge, running the full length of the bag, so it is much easier to pack, unpack, and locate specific items with a minimum of rummaging. Second, the size of the bag can be adjusted to suit the amount of gear inside. The mouth of the bag rolls down to eliminate the dead space and is locked in place by two adjustable straps. It’s a clever idea that ensures the contents will never bounce around in the bag. Watch this video to see how it works.
As with Henty’s other bags, the Tube Backpack has a number of thoughtful features like waterproof lining and sealed seams; a separate weatherproof compartment for a laptop/tablet; reflective strips on the securing straps; a small compartment at the side for keys, wallet and phone; and finally, a removable waist strap. There is also Henty’s usual high quality construction and finishing that promises a bag that will cope with plenty of use.
The Tube Backpack is available in three sizes—15, 20, and 26L—and two colours, brown or grey. Henty have also designed a Tube with a single shoulder-strap in two sizes (15, 20L) that will be available a little later this year. All Henty bags are available online along with more information on their products.
RRP: 15L Tube Backpack, $120; 20L Tube Backpack, $149; 26L Tube Backpack, $159. Single-strap Tube start at $99 (new stock expected April 2015).
After many, many years of using a conventional backpack, I welcomed the Tube’s wide mouth for packing and unpacking. It’s such an elegant improvement that enhances the utility and versatility of the bag. The adjustable pack size is equally elegant. Henty always seems to hit their mark with ease and with the Tube they demonstrate that there is a way to make a backpack easier to use.
The 20L backpack served my needs perfectly with more than enough room for ferrying my clothes to and from work. The laptop compartment was large enough to accommodate my 13-inch MacBook Pro—anything larger will be a tight fit—while the side pocket was easy to open and use after the Tube had been rolled closed.
Out on the road, the Tube Backpack proved to be very stable and comfortable on my back. Henty emphasis the value of its minimal contact patch for reducing sweat, but it also makes it very easy to wear. A pair of jeans, shoes, a couple of t-shirts and a tablet were barely noticeable with only minor bobbing of the bag while I was out of the saddle on climbs (I wasn’t using the waist strap).
While it was easy to distribute the weight of shoes, clothing and toiletries in the Tube, a laptop can end up listing to one side, unbalancing the bag to some degree. It’s is perhaps the only shortcoming in the design of the Tube that may be more or less noticeable, depending on the weight of the laptop and the capacity of the bag.
by Matt Wikstrom
Bontrager Flare R tail light
At face value, Bontrager’s new tail light looks familiar, even conventional. However, it has been designed for use during the daylight hours.
In general, the majority of cycling accidents happen during the day. While this may be a function of the number of cyclists on their bikes in conjunction with the peak times of road use, there is an argument that cyclists need to do more to improve their visibility in otherwise well lit conditions. Indeed, data from a recent Danish study indicates that permanent running lights reduces the risk of an accident by almost 20%.
Daytime use demands a brighter light so the Flare R tail light has a maximum output of 65 lumens that Bontrager claims is visible from over 2km. It has four modes of operation: day steady (25 lumens), day flash (65 lumens), night steady (5 lumens) and night flash (65 lumens). Run times range from a little over four hours in day steady mode to more than 20 hours for the night modes.
The Flare R is powered by a USB-rechargeable battery that requires 2.5 hours for complete charging. A battery indicator is situated in the power/mode button. Once the power falls below 5%, the light automatically switches to a low power strobe that ensures two more hours of operation.
The Flare R is water resistant (protection rating of IP46) and is supplied with two fittings: one, a silicone bracket to suit seatposts 22.2-31.6mm; and two, a metal clip for a saddle bag or jersey pocket.
For more information, visit Bontrager.
The Flare R tail light is a simple affair with a price that puts it at the upper end of the market. However, there are enough features to justify the extra expense starting with a CREE LED that provides up to 65 lumens of light, a built-in rechargeable battery, battery level indicator, low power strobe (a very thoughtful inclusion), two distinct output modes (i.e. day versus night), and a weight of 35g (excluding brackets).
The light is easy to operate with a single button to toggle between each mode; holding it down for a few seconds turns it off. The brackets are easy to use, and in both instances, the Flare R locks securely into place (however some effort is required to remove the light from the metal clip). The seatpost bracket manages to stretch around a 31.6mm post but anything larger (e.g. an aero post) will defeat it.
I’ll leave it to the individual to decide the value of daytime lighting. However, by choosing to market the Flare R on the strength of its daytime performance, Bontrager is bringing attention to lighting as a strategy for improving the visibility of cyclists.
by Matt Wikstrom
POC AVIP Essential bib shorts and short sleeve jersey
POC’s AVIP Essential bib shorts are made of “warp knitted stretch fabric” for a better fit and feel. The short sleeve jersey uses four-way stretch fabric to reduce drag.
The bib shorts use a compact fabric structure, reportedly to help support your muscles and compression “to help circulation and recovery”. The custom built seamless chamois pad is designed to give additional support and relieve pressure at the ischiatic and perineal area whilst allowing for optimal airflow.
The short sleeve jersey encompasses a full-length zip and underarm mesh that has been designed for improved flexibility and breathability.
As with the Octal Helmet, this kit and jersey have been designed with safety and visibility in mind.
For more information visit the POC website.
RRP: Bib knicks: 2,000 Swedish Krona (AUD $295); jersey: 1,700 Swedish Krona (AUD $250).
There’s not a whole lot going on with the design of this kit, with the use of big block colours, large panels and a reflective back pocket on the jersey and knicks. However this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the effect is striking. There aren’t a lot of kits out there with a similar look to this and we had lots of comments to this effect when trying it out on the road.
The short sleeve jersey is certainly a summer jersey with very lightweight material and mesh under the arms for breathability so you’ll need an undershirt for those colder months. The knicks are a high quality thicker material and the chamois is one of the better ones I’ve tried and is extremely comfortable.
They knicks are certainly a Euro cut however and sit very high on the leg, showing off lots of your quads. This is one of our irks — the sizing of the knicks is slightly off in our opinion. I wear small knick in most brands, but I found myself wearing the medium POC knicks, and could even fit a large. I would suggest going at least one size up on the knicks as they are definitely made for the skinny, pro build.
The jersey is definitely a race cut as well, and I’d also err on the side of a larger size, otherwise you may be showing some belly button. The three-pockets on the back fit everything you’d need, and there’s a small zip pocket on the inside of the right pocket.
by Jonathan Reece
BBB Neoshield winter gloves
BBB has a extensive range of winter gloves with almost a dozen different models on offer. Their BWG-26 Neoshield winter gloves are designed primarily for wet weather, utilising 3mm neoprene that will keep the hands warm even when soaked with rain.
BBB has paid attention to the shape of the gloves, curving the fingers to suit handlebars. Anti-slip dots are printed on the palms of the gloves to improve their grip while extra long cuffs ensure that the wrists won’t get exposed to the cold.
Neoshield winter gloves are available in four sizes (XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL, XXXL) and one colour (black). For more information, visit BBB parts.
Anybody that has worn a wetsuit will understand how these gloves will keep the hands warm. After all, they aren’t designed to keep the water out; rather, neoprene is an excellent insulator that stops heat from escaping. Thus, body heat ends up warming the air and/or water in the gloves to stop the hands from getting cold.
The weight of these gloves is perfect for autumn showers (and moderate winter temperatures too). Wet or dry, I found the neoprene soft, comfortable, and easy to wear. The “anatomical shaping” of the gloves is effective too, encouraging the hands to curl around the bars while eliminating bunching of the material.
Finally, I pleased to discover that these gloves warm up quickly once wet. Too many times I’ve been caught in a shower on the way to work, leaving me with damp clothing for the return trip at the end of the day. Gloves and socks are the worst in this respect, but with the Neoshield gloves, my hands only suffered a moment of discomfort before they were warm again.
By Matt Wikstrom
This Island Race photobook
This Island Race is Rouleur magazine’s 2014 annual — a celebration of racing on British shores in that particular year. As the Rouleur editorial staff write in the foreword “this season was the perfect storm of bike racing in the British Isles, one never seen before and unlikely to be repeated again.”
In addition to a host of great local races — including the men’s and women’s Tour of Britain — both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France began in the British Isles in 2014. This Island Race, published by Bloomsbury, documents the memorable moments from throughout the year in photos and in words.
RRP: £40.50 (AUD $77)
The team at Rouleur know how to make great magazines and they know how to make great coffee table books. And this is a great coffee table book. Nice and chunky with lots of big, beautiful photos it’s perfect for flicking through when you’ve got an idle moment.
And if you feel like delving a little deeper, the stories contained within are well worth a read as well. Rouleur does a terrific job of capturing the little moments in and around racing that TV coverage doesn’t pick up. Recommended.
by Matt de Neef
Supacaz Sticky Kush bartape
Sticky Kush is reportedly “the high performance bar tape of choice for world champions and gold medalists”. According to its makers it fuses “performance and style” delivering “the first bar tape worthy of the Cavendish name.” Mark Cavendish reportedly helped designed the bar tape and uses it himself.
For more information visit the Fairway Trade website.
RRP: From $43
Bar tape is one of those touchpoints on the bike that is often a bit of an afterthought, but it can have a tremendous impact on the enjoyability of your ride (and let’s face it, the post-ride bike wash). Supacaz has been on the scene for a while now – long enough for Cav to put his name to a design.
What we really liked about this tape was not just the ease of installation (it has a good amount of elasticity, allowing for a tight, non-saggy fit), but the feel of the tape once on the bars. The slightly rubberised feel means that when riding bare-knuckled in summer there is no risk of having wet hands slipping off the bars (and we imagine the same is true in the rain).
There is a nice amount of spring in the tape, which has a slight vibration-dampening effect. A nice touch is the inclusion of expanding bar ends, virtually eliminating the prospect of lost plugs.
by Andy van Bergen
MAAP’s Argyle jersey is the company’s take on “a new wardrobe staple” and features “a tonal argyle pattern with classic branding and minimal labels.” It’s meant to be warn slim and features a longer sleeve length.
MAAP’s ultimate bib short is dyed a deep matte black “for a quality look and feel”. The hem reportedly features “highly compressive double bonded lycra fabric, which holds firmly in position and features a laser cut edge for a clean look”.
For more information visit the MAAP website.
RRP: Jersey: $170, Bib: $260, Socks: $25.
The thing that is immediately apparent when picking up the MAAP Argyle jersey is the lightweight and quality feel. There are some really nice little finishing touches that don’t go unnoticed. Details like the zipper base hood (with a subtle black-on-black polka-dot pattern), the sheer and slightly longer sleeves (which we loved), and the inside-printing of the collar. These are aesthetic touches obviously, but they speak volumes for the brand.
Accompanying the jersey was the Team Issue matt black bib short, and dot socks (which we have previously mentioned here). The material for the bib is dyed (rather than printed) black, which results in a ‘truer’ black, and doesn’t have a tell-tale white show when stretched. On the subject of stretching, this compression material conforms beautifully, and sits nice and low on the leg, bucking the recent trend of shorter and shorter leg bands.
We tested this kit during a couple of shorter rides, but to get a true feel for the cut it was used in a 3,000m day in the hills. The high-density padding really came into it’s own. The true test of a chamois is when you don’t notice it, and this was the case with the MAAP bibs. The jersey sits beautifully, and together the kit looks incredibly sharp – both on and off the bike.
by Andy van Bergen
Volta Paragon Performance helmet
Winner of a prestigious NZ Best Design Award, the new Volta Paragon features 25 air-flow enhancing vents “to keep you looking and feeling ultra-cool.”
For more information visit the Volta website.
The Paragon helmet from Volta is certainly one of the more open format designs we have seen recently, particularly with the trend toward closed aero styles. Like most helmets the design is a matter of personal taste, and upon showing it to people we had mixed reviews, although we found once worn it wasn’t nearly as polarising.
A simple roller-dial closes the plastic tightening loop. This loop can be adjusted for height, although this clip did feel a little flimsy. Padding is generally good, although a little more around the forehead would be welcome. Once set up, the helmet sits snugly in place. The weight of the helmet is 320g.
by Andy van Bergen
The Turbine, second generation
Rhinomed’s second-generation Turbine “nasal dilator” comes with the same promise as the original version: to “increase airflow by the nose by an average of 38%” which “enab[les] the body to focus energy on the muscles that need it, when they need it.” The second-generation Turbine “utilises new materials that are much softer and more comfortable for longer retention.”
For more information visit The Turbine website.
RRP: $19.95 for a pack of three